January 2012 Archives

Analysis: Lead in Google+ Story

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The lead in Bloomberg's report on Google+ new age requirements is a good example of a typical lead, and a well-structured one.

The lead does not include a specific time element, but gets straight to the action of the story: That Google has widened its age restrictions to allow children 13 or older to join it's social networking site, Google+.

After taking care of the who and what, the Bloomberg lead gets into the specifics of the "why"; that Google is changing these policies in order to compete more easily with Facebook, which is also open to anyone 13 and over.

The Bloomberg article also takes care to mention Google's trading symbol, GOOG, in the lead (and also makes note of Google's stock later in the article). This would be too specific to note for most publications, but is appropriate here since Bloomberg mostly reports financial news.

Nuclear Inspection Underway in Iran

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A team representing the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency landed in Iran on Sunday to begin a three-day inspection of the country's nuclear facilities, the Associated Press reports.

The inspection comes in the wake of renewed tensions between Iran and western states, who have long sought to slow or halt Iran's uranium enrichment programs. Led by the United States, the 5+1 group (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany) has recently imposed new sanctions on Iran.

In retaliation Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, which carries around 20% of the world's oil, according to AP. The Iranian state media has also accused the U.S. and Israel of ordering assassinations of top nuclear scientists, most recently Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan. Protesters carrying pictures of Roshan were waiting for the IAEA inspectors when they landed in Tehran early Sunday morning.

Despite these tensions, Iran is putting on an optimistic face over the inspections.

"The nuclear issue has taken the right course and our interaction with the agency has been good, and the cooperation has been close and extensive," said Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, according to the Tehran Times.

"We've always tried to put transparency as a principle in our cooperation with IAEA," Salehi also said. "During this visit, the delegation has questions and the necessary answers will be given," This stance represents a shift from Iran's previous frank refusal to discuss it's nuclear program.

The IAEA hopes to capitalize on this new attitude as their team questions nuclear scientest suspected of working on the weapons program, and inspects a number of nuclear enrichment labs, including a recently operational facility built into a mountain, which the UN fears was designed to resist air strikes.

"So we're looking forward to the start of a dialogue," IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts told the AP.

Minnesota Prosecutors Push to Carry Firearms

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New bills are being pushed through the state legislature that would lift the current ban on prosecutors carrying firearms and raise the penalty for attacking a prosecutor, according to the Star Tribune.

The new legislation is being proposed by Republican representative Tony Cornish, and comes in the wake of the December attack on prosecutor Assistant Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell. Scannell and another man were injured when a recently convicted sex offender burst into his office and opened fire.

Cornish's bills passed unanimously through public safety and crime prevention committee and will be voted on in the house soon. Similar bills are being proposed in the senate, the Pioneer Press reports.

"It's a form of discrimination," said Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Chris Rovney. "All this bill asks for is parity with the rest of the citizens in the state."

As for Scannell, he said that he would support both bills, but has no plans on carrying a gun.

"...when you attack a system, and you attack a state and you attack the public, what you are doing is inherently wrong, and by having this enhanced penalty, I think we're doing that. I believed that before I got shot. It didn't make me believe it less when I got shot," he said.

JC Penney Drastically Altering Business Model

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JC Penney announced Wednesday that it is completely restructuring its business starting in February. Changes include a new logo, simpler pricing, less promotions, and a new spokesperson in the form of Ellen DeGeneres, according to Reuters.

The struggling department store chain will reduce the number of promotions it holds per year from 590 to just 12, using the newly freed up money to advertise its brand more extensively. The company will still release traditional weekly newspaper ads, and a new 90-page monthly ad with that month's promotions.

In lieu of direct-mail and blowout-style promotions, JC Penny will enact new "fair and square pricing". Only one in 500 items at JC Penney is actually sold at full price, according to AdAge. The new pricing model is meant to reflect the way Penney's merchandise is already being sold while doing away with confusing sales and promotions. An example given in AdAge says that a shirt retailed for $14 would have typically sold for around $6 under the old system, so the new price will be $7. To further reduce confusion, all items will have flat prices.

The company will also be restructuring their stores to resemble the layout of department stores of yesteryear, with small boutiques within the larger store, and a new "town square" area set up in the area currently reserved for cosmetics and jewelry. JC Penney hopes an improved in-store experience will bring back shoppers who are currently content to find deals online rather than wade through endless racks.

These changes come in the wake of an executive shake up at Penney. Last fall the chain hired a new CEO, Apple alum Ron Johnson, and a new president, Michael Francis, formerly of Target. The new leadership at Penney's has said that they are aspiring to mirror the success of their former companies with JC Penney.

The changes will launch in February, though won't fully take effect until 2015. The shake-up has already been well-received with business press. Forbes called Penney the "most interesting retailer of 2012", and Penney's stock saw a 15% jump on Thursday, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

"We're rethinking and reimagining, and if we find that we've picked up any bad habits over the decades, we're going to leave them far behind," Johnson told Ad Age.

New Progress in Vikings Stadium Talks

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Lawmakers and Minnesota Vikings management are closer than ever to an agreement on the location of a new stadium, the Star Tribune reports.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Governor Mark Dayton, and a few other lawmakers discussed the plan for a new Vikings stadium during a three-hour closed-door meeting Wednesday morning.

The Vikings and state officials have been butting heads for more than a year over the location of a proposed replacement for the aging Metrodome. Wilf and the Vikings have been pushing for a new stadium to be built at the site of an abandoned ammunitions plant in Arden Hills, where they would have more control over parking and surrounding developments. Lawmakers prefer instead for the replacement stadium to be built on the current Metrodome site, which would be a boon to urban development.

Now it seems that Wilf and the Vikings have softened their stance on the current dome site after Wednesday's meeting, though they have not committed fully.

"Arden Hills is not out of the picture. We would still like to explore, but we would leave it up to the legislative working group to decide where they would want us to work hardest at, " Wilf told the Pioneer Press. "We're very excited that we're getting closer. A lot of hard work's ahead of us, but we feel optimistic and confident that we'll get something done."

The Pioneer Press also reports that the proposed stadium at the site of the current dome would cost around $915 million, making it the least expensive off all the stadium proposals. The current proposed plan finds Minneapolis, the state government, and the Vikings each contributing about a third of the cost.

Although Governor Dayton's goal for Wednesday's meeting was to bring Wilf around to the idea of building on the dome site, he is similarly optimistic about finally coming to an agreement.

"I think we made excellent progress today," he said.

Giffords Steps Down

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Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona has announced that she will be stepping down from her House seat to further recover from last January's assassination attempt, The Guardian reports.

Giffords was shot in the head at point blank range just over a year ago in a rampage that claimed the lives of six and injured 12 more. Since then she has been slowly recovering her speech and motor skills, as questions of her status in congress loomed.

On Sunday, in a video message the congresswoman announced that she will resign from her seat this week.

In the video Giffords said, "I don't remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your voice."

Arizona Democratic Party official Jim Woodbrey told the Associated Press "It was Gabby's individual decision, and she was not in any condition to make that decision five months ago."

As required by law, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer will hold a special primary in April and a general election in June to fill the remainder of Gifford's term, which ends this year.

Although Giffords' supporters had hoped that she would be sufficiently recovered to seek reelection in November or even make a run for Senate, she assures her constituents in the video address that she will eventually return to politics.

"I'm getting better. Every day my spirit is high. I will return, and we will work together for Arizona, and for this great country," she said.

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